This City's Solution to Homelessness is Appalling


The city council of Columbia, South Carolina voted to approve a plan titled the Emergency Homeless Response that will expel the homeless population from the downtown area of the city to the outskirts of the town. Councilman Cameron Runyan successfully brought the plan before the city council, where it was unanimously approved, seemingly without consideration for the welfare of the homeless population. The plan is not without precedent. For example, Hawaii has initiated a plan that would provide homeless people with a free one-way ticket back to their home states. While there is little doubt that the homeless population affects the businesses of Columbia negatively, this plan does not get to the root of the problem. Columbia's plan criminalizes the homeless, who will also be denied equal treatment under law, an issue currently under investigation by the ACLU of South Carolina.

Columbia’s police officers will patrol the city to pick up the homeless for "quality of life" violations like public urination and loitering. Police officers will tell the homeless to go to a shelter, and refusal to do this will subject them to arrest. Additionally, the police officers utilize a hotline that citizens can call upon seeing a homeless person. The government is denying the homeless people of Columbia the right to live freely. It is also not providing any significant aid, which negatively affects the livelihoods of the homeless population. These actions are band-aid solutions to the city's homeless problem, and result in drastic unequal treatment of humanity.

Columbia is partnering with a charity to maintain a shelter for the homeless population on the rim of town that will operate around the clock. Unfortunately, that shelter only has 240 beds, not nearly enough for the homeless population, which is 1,518. The shelter will be patrolled by police officers in order to ensure the tenants do not move back to the city.

Experts are unsure of the effectiveness of sheltering in the homeless population. “Using one massive shelter on the outskirts to house all a city’s homeless is something that has never worked anywhere in the country,” said Michael Stoops, director of community organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless. In addition to the lack of resources at the shelter, the homeless population would also have to look further for soup kitchens and the like. By not providing care within the city, Columbia is attempting to exile the homeless. Columbia must confront the root problems of homelessness rather than deal with the problems that it perceives the homeless cause.